HIST234 - CAPITALISM AND HUMANITARIANISM

Description: 
Reviewing David Brion Davis’ Problem of Slavery in Western Culture for the New York Review of Books in 1967, the great ancient historian Moses Finley concluded that Davis’s book was “one of the most important to have been published on the subject of slavery in modern times.” Yet he found the book inconclusive on the “decisive question” of why slavery was finally abolished in the West. “Nothing is more difficult perhaps than to explain how and why, or why not, a new moral perception becomes effective in action,” Finley wrote. Almost 50 years after this statement was made, the complicated processes that are being played out at the heart of capitalism, mobilizing both ethical issues and the pursuit of profit are still imperfectly understood, yet more fascinating than ever. This course’s working hypothesis is that, from a better understanding of the entanglements of capitalism and humanitarianism a better understanding of the nature of the “material civilization” can be achieved. For this purpose, the course does provide a multi-pronged approach including sessions discussing analytical arguments about the reasons for the entanglements of capitalism and humanitarianism, sessions devoted to historical turning points and sessions devoted to case studies and the exploration of specific mechanisms whereby capitalism and humanitarianism connect with one another. I wish in particular to try and make students aware of the problem of “quality” and its social construction, which is found at the heart of both capitalism and humanitarianism. By awakening them to this question, I also hope to provide an engaging way to understand the importance of economics in cultural history. Last, while the course will make verbal references to work on more recent periods, the focus is on a time frame that ends with World War I. This seems warranted given that the purpose is to unpack the entanglements of finance and humanitarianism “as they got intertwined.” Nota Bene, some a few non-mandatory readings in French.
Instructors: 
FLANDREAU, MARC
Day and Time: 
R 0130PM-0430PM
Room: 
MCNEIL CENTER FOR EARLY AMERI 105
Activity: 
SEM
Cross Listings: